Congress has bowed to pressure from the powerful lobbying group Mother's Against Drunk Driving and approved the Federal transportation legislation Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, or MAP-21. The Act authorizes funding for research projects and advances the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety, or DADSS. The $10 million research program is being funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety.
The development of DADSS has been the main legislative and lobbying effort of Mothers Against Drunk Driving for the past few years. Due to their efforts they have garnered the buy-in of car manufacturers from around the world. How would it work? The Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS) technology would measure whether a driver has a blood alcohol content (BAC) at or above the nation’s legal limit of .08 percent, and if so, the system would prevent the vehicle from starting. DADSS would use sensors to measure a driver’s BAC in two ways: analyzing a driver’s breath or through the driver’s skin by using touch-based sensors strategically placed on door locks and steering wheels, common places a driver touches. Both methods eliminate a driver needing to take extra steps to start the vehicle, unlike ignition interlock devices (IIDs), which require a breath test from a driver every time they use a vehicle. Critics of the technology doubt it can ever be perfected to the point where DADSS would be completely reliable and not prevent sober drivers from driving.
In addition to DADSS, MADD persuaded Congress to include new programs to incentivize states to pass all offender ignition interlock laws. Currently, Ohio only requires the cumbersome and expensive ignition interlock devices for repeat offenders. You can expect a major push to change Ohio's law based on this congressional action. Currently, 16 states have ignition interlock laws aimed at all convicted drunk drivers.
Also in line with MADD's Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving, the legislation continues funding for NHTSA's high visibility traffic safety law enforcement campaigns. A national drunk driving prevention crackdown, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, is being conducted through the end of this week, July 6. MADD is crediting the following politicians for their support of the bill. Senators Jay Rockefeller, Barbara Boxer, Tom Udall, Frank Lautenberg, and Bob Corker along with Representatives John Mica, Shelley Moore Capito, John Sarbanes, and Heath Shuler for championing this legislation.
- Ohio OVI Law: Ignition Interlock Devices FAQ (daytondui.com)
- Alcohol-sensing technology could become standard in all cars (usatoday.com)
- NHTSA Funding Development of Blood-Alcohol-Detecting Vehicle Start Button (danielrrosen.com)
- Alcohol-Detection Research Backed by Members of Insurance Industry (news.onlineautoinsurance.com)